This week’s column has a general theme running loosely along the lines of “whatever happened to…”
We begin with Germany’s Martin Kaymer.
By most standards, Kaymer had an excellent year. He currently is fifth on the European Tour money list with more than €1.9 million in earnings. He has one victory, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, and another five top 10s.
However, we expected more when he won last year’s PGA Championship. The hype surrounding the young German was tremendous – and justified. The win in Abu Dhabi at the start of the year did nothing to dampen the expectations. Just the opposite.
We fully expected the man from Düsseldorf to add another major this season, but he only figured in in one of the tournaments that really matter. He missed the cut at the Masters and PGA Championship, finished 39th in the U.S. Open, and placed 12th in the Open Championship.
The German is in Portugal this week where he admitted he’s struggled with the weight of expectation. He also maintains that he will persist with the swing changes he tried to implement before the Masters.
“I’m 26 and I want to improve,” Kaymer said. “I didn’t want to be playing for the next 25 years with the same swing. You don’t go forward in your career if you just stay the same.”
I hope he’s right. However, why anyone would want to change a swing that has taken him to major glory is beyond me. The number of players who have embarked on swing changes after winning a major and have never won a second is well documented. Let’s hope Kaymer isn’t another.
Kaymer doesn’t have to worry about where he’s going to play for a long time, but the same can’t be said for some other names you might recognize. There are a number of good players currently outside the top 115 of the European money list that will surprise many people. The top 115 retain cards for next year.
Tour winners Brett Rumford (120), Henrik Stenson (126), Niclas Fasth (131), Gary Orr (132), Scott Strange (134), Alastair Forsyth (135) and Paul McGinley (142) are all chasing tour status. Throw in 2008 Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson (133) and it just goes to show reputation means nothing in this game.
They’re not the only ones chasing tour status. The European Challenge Tour makes for some interesting reading, too. England’s Tommy Fleetwood currently leads the European Challenge Tour money list and will play on the main tour next year. He played on the 2009 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team, and was one of England’s golden boys in amateur golf. Big things are expected of him and it will be interesting to see how he performs.
Former amateur world No. 1 Jamie Moul is in sixth place. The Englishman, featured on the 2007 GB&I Walker Cup team, has taken a while to get to the main tour. He’s on track now, and hopefully he will blossom next year.
Speaking of GB&I Walker Cup boys, a few from this year’s class have fallen at the first hurdle in their quest to get European cards. Former Arizona State player James Byrne, Scotland’s Michael Stewart and Northern Ireland’s Paul Cutler failed to advance through the first stage of qualifying, thus they will tramp around the mini tours next year. Meanwhile, Jack Senior, Steven Brown and Stiggy Hodgson all made it into second stage. Tom Lewis and Andy Sullivan are already exempt into that stage.
I wonder how many will make it through to final stage, and if any will get one of the 30 cards on offer.
Australia’s Peter Fowler didn’t do much on the European Tour, but he’s making up for lost time on the European Senior Tour. Fowler won once on the regular tour. The 1993 BMW International Open was his only time in the winner’s circle in a 25-year career. Yet he’s won twice on this year’s senior circuit and leads the money list with more than €283,000. Only twice in those 25 seasons on the regular tour did he earn more.
For some men, life really does begin at 50.